I initially selected another movie, discounting this 1964 Russian-Cuban documentary coproduction because of its length and subtitles. I then changed my mind, because, if it caught the attention of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorses, it must be good. I was not diappointed!
The movie leads the viewer through a series of vignettes that portray Cuba, beginning in Havana during the pre-revolution era under dictator Batista and ending with the revolution led by Castro. The opening scene includes underwater rooftop swimming pool shots when waterproof cameras were unheard of. A watertight box had to be constructed for the scene.
'I am Cuba' is made up of amazing cinematography. Trust the Russians, specialized infrared film that was produced for spy missions, was used with a handheld Eclair moving camera. The results were some incredible high contrast shots, especially the outdoor sugar cane field scenes and the mountain hillside scenes during the bombing attacks. One of my favorite shots is the crane-shot sequence looking down onto the streets during the funeral procession. The shots are incredible! The nightclub sex trade exploitation vignette, the landowners exploiting of the peasants sugar cane crop scene, and the death squad brutality during the university-based revolutionary fights all portrayed a countries journey from a dictatorship regime to a more egalitarian communist society.
I found that time passed quickly while I watched this movie, I left feeling somewhat enlightened with a new understanding and empathy towards the Cuban people. 'I am Cuba' reminded me of a friend's circumstance as they lived through a similar revolution in Chile. Why is it that democracy comes at the cost of its citizens blood?